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Benzema talks Ballon d’Or win, Ancelotti, Mourinho, Zidane, and Santiago Bernabeu



Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Karim Benzema made history by becoming the first French player since Zinedine Zidane to win the Ballon d’Or award.

As is the custom, France Football conducted a long interview with the Real Madrid forward, who talks about his early life successes, his journey into superstardom, and how club football played a key role in his rapid rise to prominence, among other things.

Here are some of the key points from his long interview with France Football (h/t AS).

On how he felt winning the Ballon d’Or: “Joy, pride, there are many memories, many topics that come to mind. There is no more beautiful individual prize in all sports. First of all, the name: Ballon d’Or. It’s something different, magnificent, all gold, the height of beauty. And it can’t be bought. It’s mine and I went to get it myself. It’s crazy.”

On his obsession with the trophy: “Destiny was written. It’s about my life, my career, and my story. I can’t see myself giving up playing football without it. I had to win it, but it wasn’t an obsession or something in my head that drove me crazy. I had to get close, I had to get close again. I had to catch it. You have the Ballon d’Or, you have made history in this sport. And I play football to leave something behind, even if it’s an action or an emotion.”

On who he talked about Ballon d’Or: “With my mother. It was her dream. She always told me: ‘You are the best, you will win it’. She was special, she was convinced, persuaded. They weren’t long discussions, but she had time to say a few words to me. When I was preparing for a new season, when I was talking with my parents, my brother, my mother told me: ‘I hope you continue to have the Ballon d’Or in your head.'”

On how Ballon d’Or feels like: “It is beyond everything. It is an individual trophy, but it is, and always will be, collective, with my teammates, of course, but also with people from outside. I share it with the people where I come from, from the neighbourhoods, my fans, and everyone. It’s my Ballon d’Or, but in reality, it’s the people’s Ballon d’Or.”

On how he feels a match with five senses: “I look at the goal of the opposition and my direct rival. I look and analyze my marker in a few seconds, where he is, his behaviour, if he is going to come hard for me, or if he is going to give me time to control, or if he is going too fast. The eyes transmit to the brain and I know it. My game starts at the moment of the kick-off.”

On what it is like to enter the Santiago Bernabeu: “It is wonderful. I can hear the fans and the adrenaline is pumping. We salute our rivals, etc. I know where my loved ones are, we look at each other, and there is a connection. I have to do it, I need it. I don’t start a game without that look.”

On where he likes to play the most: “In the scoring area, to finish the move and score, or when the ball is out, I position myself past the centre of the field, in the last thirty metres. I like to take possession of the ball there and have the whole field in front of me and the whole stadium to start the move. That’s where I watch and read the game.”

On talking to teammates with his eyes: “It depends on the player. You don’t have to talk to Modric, he communicates with his eyes. He looks at me, he knows how my body is positioned. I look at it and I know how yours is placed. And we both know what’s going to happen. 

Benzema and Modric share a telepathic understanding (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

“Against PSG (3-1 at the Bernabéu) everyone thinks of the 2-1 play that he was going to shoot, but I know he was going to make that pass. And he knows it too because I stop and back up, while he pretends he’s going to shoot. They are the eyes, the movements and the head before the feet. Among the great players, looks are enough to understand and interpret a situation.”

On whether he looks at rivals: “Always. I take a minute to observe the defenders, to see their attitude toward my movements and their behaviour. When I receive the ball, I vary my controls, and then I know where the difficulties can be. I analyze them. But there is no eye contact. It exists, but I’m not into it.”

On the opposition players try intimidating him with their eyes: “Yes, often. The truth is that it makes me laugh. It’s true and it’s even funny. You meet a defender who does things like that and then sees that it’s no use. So he taps me on the shoulder and basically says, ‘Go ahead, take it easy…’. 

“A defender might want to impress me. I tell him: ‘Look, you can hit me, but go to the ball’. Let’s play football. I’m not interested in going forward. I don’t like going in there, and I don’t want to. I have seen the aggression in the eyes of the defenders before, yes, unpleasant. But it’s nothing.”

On whether he looks at the goalkeeper as well: “I already see him before the games. I try to see where he is very good and where he is not so good. That can help.”

On what he hears on the pitch: “All. The fans, the teammates, the ball, the coaches talking… everything. I hear every sound clearly. And I’m paying attention to everything. (He points to his right ear and his head.) Everything goes in. It’s like a concert.”

On whether he listens to Carlo Ancelotti during matches: “No. It is more gestural. You already feel it when he’s not happy. He often says to me: ‘What are you doing?’ He says it in general for the whole team. We have a good connection. 

“Mourinho, he talked a lot. But they were other times, another football and with more tension. He did it by shouting, cheering, a bit of everything. It can be pleasant or unpleasant. But he is still one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. When Zizou is not happy, you hear and feel it too!”

Benzema shares a special relationship with Ancelotti and Zidane (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

On how he perceives public opinion: “It is important, it influences you. For example, you receive the ball, you miss a dribble, or a shot. If they whistle at you, it’s complicated. But if it cheers you up, what do you do? The next ball that does not enter, you try again. And the next ball you touch is the same and possibly you score.”

On how he is a football player for football lovers: “I grew up with this football of lovers and connoisseurs of football. Because that’s how I saw it. In my childhood, I grew up with FC Nantes (Le Jeu Nantaise), the one-touch game, and the fast movements. 

And then, in my neighbourhood, I grew up with older kids, six or seven years older, stronger, and faster than me. See fast, think fast, act fast.”

On whether he hears silence in the pitch: “Yes, when I’m about to take a penalty, for example. Let’s take City’s in the second leg (Champions League semi-final, 3-1). There was a lot of noise and it was in my ears. It was like being on an airplane. 

I managed to concentrate and then I started the run. There is no more noise, just a few claps, very softly. It’s the people talking or the security guard. But I didn’t hear anything.”

On hearing whistles from the stands: “Yes, at the Bernabéu, in the French team, even in Lyon, and it’s difficult. Because it is your public. They come over time and that means you haven’t done the right thing for a certain period. 

“You have to say to yourself, ‘What can I do to get out of this? Do I continue like this, lose confidence, get scared, become an ordinary player, and get whistled all the time? Or do I take over, because I know my quality, and make sure they applaud me? You have to choose. 

“There were whistles that gave me a headache. You have to try not to contaminate your head. It’s tricky, but it can also get you higher.”

On being a player who is crazy about football: “Yes I think so. Because my game is simple. If you take the panenka against City (semi-final first leg), when I talk about it with my little brother, he tells me: ‘You’re crazy! But why?’.

“Before, I missed two penalties in a single game, I shouldn’t have taken it and now we’re in the semi-finals, 4-2, and I make a panenka. It was not extravagant. For me, it was simple, so I had to do it. In the previous game, when I shot to the right, my strong side, the goalkeeper had saved two penalties. 

“Shoot right? That’s out. On the left? I don’t know. Actually, I said to myself, I’m going to do a ‘Zizou’! That’s what I had in mind. Playing football is about doing simple things that seem complicated.”

On whether the Ballon d’Or has a taste of revenge: “Revenge? No. I have been nominated for a long time (in 2008 for the first time) but, in the end, I was always too far away, although I could have been higher at times. But don’t worry, I told myself, to each his own. Last year, we didn’t win anything collectively, I finished fourth. 

“It was hard, but no need to worry. Do I have to do more? Fine, I’ll go do it. But it’s not revenge. I went to find myself, I worked alone. I stayed where I was, I kept working, I took my time. I went back to the front, and here I am. 

“It is a special Ballon d’Or, one of the most beautiful. In fact, it is history. I have come a long way. Five years ago, no one would have predicted this, no one. That is why it is exceptional, magnificent.”

On whether every ball he touches is an opportunity: “Yes. I try to make sure that it is. But it depends on how the ball arrives, how you touch it, and what happens next. The action that follows comes from the way the continuation is performed. 

“Not only is the ending important, everything counts. If your deflection from the outside is not in the path of the player you want to pass the ball to, he stops and nothing is the same. Everything is creative. The way is creative.”

On becoming a football artist: “In what I do, yes. After that, I do my own business. Everything I do, even a single pass, a single move, depends on what happens next. I grew up with the football of the artists, ‘Zizou’ and Ronaldo. Despite all the great players we have seen since then, they are on another level. Cristiano and Messi are also artists because of what they have done, you cannot do what they do.”

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Real Madrid News

Ancelotti talks Kroos, Modric, Bellingham, Vinicius ahead of Atletico vs Real Madrid



Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

After escaping with a narrow 1-0 win against Union Berlin in the UEFA Champions League, Real Madrid face a tough task this weekend as they travel to the other side of the Spanish capital to face their old pals Atletico Madrid.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men have put in several solid offensive performances through the season so far, but have found it difficult to finish chances, often relying on Jude Bellingham to rescue the game in the last moments.

Their task will be much tougher against an Atletico side that is winless in two games and looking to get back up on the curb.

On them, Ancelotti commented, “Tomorrow’s game is an important one. Atletico Madrid area a strong rival. We can’t wait to play.”

Injury updates: Vinicius, Guler, Bellingham

Vinicius Jr has missed the last three games due to injury, but will be evaluated today to decide his participation tomorrow.

“He will be in the squad for tomorrow’s game,” Ancelotti updated the press. “We will decide tomorrow if he starts or not.”

He also said, “Vinicius has 100% recovered. Zero risks. He would not be in the squad for the game tomorrow, otherwise. We will see tomorrow.”

“He has not played for weeks, so he obviously lacks rhythm.”

As far as Arda Guler is concerned, the Turkish midfielder is yet to make his debut for the club, but is expected to join team training as early as Monday.

“Arda will start training with the team on Monday.”

Jude Bellingham left Madrid training early yesterday, which sounded some alarm bells at the club. However, Ancelotti confirmed that he will be playing tomorrow, and that there was no reason to panic.

“Jude Bellingham will play tomorrow.”

“I would not cry if he did not play. We have other players [laughs],” he joked.

Kroos, Modric, and rotations

Real Madrid have a star-studded squad, which means legendary midfielders such as Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are often left out of the starting lineup. The duo are reportedly unhappy with their role.

Ancelotti was asked about this, to which he replied, “It hurts to leave them on the bench. But only them, Valverde, Tchouameni, too. It’s always hard to leave a player on the bench.”

“They understand it because the competition is very high. I understand that a player comes out sad when he is substituted. But I do it to make the player more active.”

El Clasico vs Madrid Derby

Ancelotti was also asked to compare the Madrid derby to El Clasico, and which one he preferred more.

“There is no difference. We like to prepare for matches like these, to be champions, because there is a special tension. There is excitement and we want to win and be champions.”

“The Madrid derby is always a special game. A lot of quality between two rivals. Atletico played very well against Lazio,” he added.

Source: RMTV

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